After a wild opening day of the madness that saw a boatload of upsets, including one of the biggest of all-time, when 15th seeded St. Peter’s upset 2nd ranked Kentucky, yesterday felt like a return to normalcy. That’s not to say that there weren’t upsets, as we did see some double digits seeded teams win games, but for the most part, the teams we all thought had a shot of making a deep run in this tournament found a way to win and advance.
We picked up another winning bet yesterday with our play on the Texas Longhorns (-1.5) in their game against the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Everyone and their mom was on Virginia Tech, as the game featured the largest line move on the board, with all of the action coming in on the Hokies. I mentioned in my pick yesterday that when everyone is on one side of a game, you are almost always going to want to be on the other side!
— Second Round Sunday at 7:40 on TNT (@TexasMBB) March 18, 2022
Virginia Tech’s hot run at the end of the year had people convinced that they could beat what every metric available told me was a far superior team. But when I saw that the Hokies were racking up wins against bad teams like Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech, and that the Longhorns were only losing to elite teams like Baylor, Kansas, and Texas Tech, I knew that the public was being fooled and hammered on Texas.
The game went much as I expected that it would, as Texas led throughout, and while the final score might lead you to believe that we had to sweat out the cover at the end, that just wasn’t the case, as Texas was up 15 points with just over a minute left to play. The Hokies did an admirable job of playing to the buzzer, but we coasted to the win and cover in this game. It has been a nice start to the Madness for us, as we are 3-1 on our point spread plays so far, and will get right back to the grind today, as we head to the East Regional, for the game between the 5th seeded Gaels of St. Mary’s and the 4th seeded UCLA Bruins.
St. Mary’s Gaels (26-7)
A lot of casual basketball fans like to pretend that the WCC is closer to the SWAC than the SEC in terms of talent, but real college hoops insiders know that just isn’t the case. Most of that hate is directed at the West Coast Conference because of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but that hate does permeate through to the rest of the league as well. But so far, we have seen the WCC perform at a high level in this tournament, proving that this league is legit.
Gonzaga had a slow start in their opening-round game with Georgia State, but they overcame that and led by as many as 30 points in the 2nd half, and coasted to a 21-point victory. San Francisco had a great showing as well, as they took the Murray State Racers to overtime, despite playing without their best big man the entire game. And I am not sure that any team in the tournament looked any better than St. Mary’s did in the opening round, as they completely destroyed the Indiana Hoosiers, a team that many people had picked to win that game.
Madness, Part II
Battle of California on tap as No. 5 SMC takes on No. 4 UCLA at 4:10 pm on TBS!
— Saint Mary's Hoops (@saintmaryshoops) March 19, 2022
That performance surprised a lot of people, but it didn’t surprise me, as I have watched the Gaels play several times this season, and this is a team that is going to be an exceedingly tough out in this tournament. St. Mary’s didn’t get a lot of mainstream media attention during the regular season, but this is an accomplished squad that has picked up top-100 wins over Notre Dame, Oregon, Utah State, Missouri State, Santa Clara (twice), San Francisco (twice), Gonzaga, and BYU.
When the Gaels put a beating on Gonzaga in their final regular game of the season, I knew that this team was the real deal. St. Mary’s plays elite defense, efficient offense, and they have a roster that is chalked full of experienced upperclassmen. While most of the country is going to view them as major underdogs in this game, I am sure that Randy Bennett and his Gaels don’t feel that way. To quote legendary UFC champion, Connor McGregor, the Gaels aren’t here to take part, they are here to take over.
UCLA Bruins (26-7)
The UCLA Bruins have to be feeling at least somewhat fortunate to still be playing in this event, as they did not play well in their opening round game against Akron. The Bruins trailed basically the entire game, and they found themselves down with just 2 minutes left in the game to the Zips. You have to give the Bruins credit though, as they weren’t at their best, but they did manage to gut out the win and advance.
That mediocre performance against Akron has been symbolic of how this entire season has gone for UCLA. The Bruins came into the season ranked 2nd in the nation, after making a run to the Final Four last year and returning their entire rotation. And while they have mostly played well this year, it is hard not to feel underwhelmed by UCLA’s resume, given their lofty expectations.
No. 4-seed UCLA (26-7) faces No. 5-seed Saint Mary’s (26-7) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament today in Portland.
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) March 19, 2022
The Bruins have elite wins over Villanova and Arizona, so they have shown that if they play their best game, they could make a return trip to the 3rd weekend of the Madness. But they have also shown that they don’t always give a consistent effort, as they lost to Oregon twice and Arizona State in the regular season, with neither of those teams sniffing the NCAA tournament bubble this year. They also had close calls in wins over below-average teams like Stanford, Cal, and Utah.
Could UCLA win the national title this year? I think so. But could they also lose this game and go home early? Absolutely. It is hard to know exactly which version of this team is going to show up, but with talent all over the floor, with studs like Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez, and Tyger Campbell, that know what it takes to win in March, this team must be feared.
St. Mary’s Gaels vs UCLA Bruins Betting Odds And Team Statistics
The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:
|St. Mary’s Gaels||+3.5 (-110)||+130||Over 126 (-110)|
|UCLA Bruins||-3.5 (-110)||-150||Under 126 (-110)|
|Team Data||St. Mary’s||UCLA Bruins|
|Points Per Game||70.1||75.8|
|Points Against Per Game||60.2||64.5|
|Field Goal %||46.5%||44.8%|
|Three Point %||35.4%||35.2%|
St. Mary’s Gaels vs UCLA Bruins Prediction:
Of all of the games on the board today, I don’t think there is going to be a game that is more competitive, or nearly as much fun, as this game between St. Mary’s and UCLA. While the Bruins have the bigger names and the higher profile program, I see this game as being dead even in terms of who is going to win or lose. If this game were being played in a vacuum, I think that UCLA clearly has the more talented roster. But this game won’t be played in a vacuum, and with all of the heavy expectations on the Bruins, I think they are going to struggle to live up to them tonight.
— Saint Mary's Hoops (@saintmaryshoops) March 18, 2022
All season long it has been Final Four or bust for the Bruins, and we have seen that wear on them. They did not look good against Akron, and in reality, they haven’t looked very good in any of their last 5 games, as they have had a hard time closing teams out. Now, to be fair to the Bruins, they have done a great job of hanging on and still winning most of these games, but if they play like they did against Akron, tonight against St. Mary’s, they aren’t going to just lose this game, they are going to get run off of the floor.
I smell upset tonight in this game. UCLA has been playing with fire a lot lately, and if they do that again tonight, they are going to get burned. This is Randy Bennet’s 8th trip to the Big Dance at St. Mary’s and this team won’t be remotely intimidated by the Bruins. They came here to win this game, and I think that is what is going to happen.
St. Mary’s Gaels vs UCLA Bruins Betting Trends:
- The total has gone OVER in 10 of Saint Mary’s-California’s last 15 games
- Saint Mary’s-California is 6-1 SU in their last 7 games
- Saint Mary’s-California is 14-3 SU in their last 17 games this season
- Saint Mary’s-California is 6-1 SU in their last 7 games against an opponent in the Pac-12 conference
- Saint Mary’s-California is 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games played in March
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of UCLA’s last 7 games
- UCLA is 6-1 SU in their last 7 games
- UCLA is 9-2 SU in their last 11 games this season
- UCLA is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games against an opponent in the West Coast conference
- UCLA is 9-1 SU in their last 10 games played in March
I did make a play on the Gales on the money line as underdogs, as I do feel that they can win this game outright. But when I see that I can get more than a full possession’s worth of points, I can’t resist making a point spread play on them as well. Some books have adjusted this one down slightly, as many books have it sitting at 3 points right now, so you might have to line shop this one a bit to get the right number.
I know many of you out there might be thinking to yourself, is it really worth it to shop around for half a point? And while sometimes that half of a point doesn’t matter all of that much, for instance, the difference between 8.5 points and 9 isn’t a major deal, but the difference between 3 and 3.5 could end up being a huge deal!
Do the right thing, shop around a bit, and make sure that you are getting that hook, as we just might end up needing it in what is sure to be a game that comes down to the final few possessions to be decided. In a game that could go either way, I am taking the Gales and the points in what is sure to be a thriller!